WWF Wrestlemania 2000 was an important game for WWF fans but it rarely gets discussed in modern times. Is it worth revisiting?
With Acclaim gone, it was time for THQ to shine.
From here on out, each console would be getting its own specific WWF video game franchise, meaning it was pot luck from here on out what kind of experience you’d be getting.
The cynical among you might call this a cash grab. Now instead of one WWF video game a year, die-hard fans would have 2 or even 3 within a calendar year to snap up. A good way to encourage fans to part with their money on a more frequent basis. Believe it or not, this move did have benefits.
The PlayStation and Nintendo 64 consoles were radically different beasts. Both had their own shortcomings and advantages; releasing games across both meant compromises. By allowing games to be their own thing, it would lead to radically different approaches to the WWF video game that played (mostly) to the strengths of that console.
First up in October of 1999 was the Nintendo 64.offering of Wrestlemania 2000.
It was no secret before WWF Attitude arrived that Wrestlemania 2000 was coming down the tracks. By the time Attitude released, most fans were looking at that game with eager eyes, it’s not hard to see why.
WCW/NWO Revenge was generally accepted as the best wrestling video game on either platform at this time. Wrestlemania 2000 would be taking that formula and slapping a WWF coat of paint on it. What more could you ask for?
This hype translated into sales as THQ reported that the game sold over one million units within two months of release. Not bad for a game that came out two months after the last major WWF video game release.
With sales success achieved and THQ delivering a winning formula, how does Wrestlemania 2000 on the Nintendo 64 hold up all these years later?
What’s Old is New Again
From the opening cutscene, it’s clear that Wrestlemania 2000 is going to be a different beast to what came before; that is if you didn’t play any of the WCW games.
There’s no way around it. If you were buying WCW’s offerings on the Nintendo 64 then you might very well have encountered a strong sense of deja vu as you play through Wrestlemania 2000. It’s clear that AKI was taking what made that game so loved and adding WWF to it. Whether you think this is a good thing or not depends largely on how much you like those games.
Let’s be clear, this was a very different game to War Zone and Attitude.
Out went the insanely complicated move lists, the dedicated punch and kick buttons, and everything that Attitude tried to establish as the norm. This was about as strong a 180-degree turn as anything seen in a Russo swerve.
AKI’s wrestle engine had been honed over a number of previous games, notably WCW and the Japanese exclusive Virtual Pro Wrestling 64 games. This means that what gamers got here was a highly refined gameplay experience.
Even all these years later, playing Wrestlemania 2000 is still very much enjoyable because the core gameplay is still easy to pick up and play.
The whole thing is centered around the new grapple system. This comes in two forms. A shallow tap of the A button gives you a weak grapple while a hard press of the A button gives you a strong grapple. By simply pressing A and a direction, your wrestler will perform one of 10 moves,
No overly complicated move lists to remember, no dash to input buttons before accidentally punching your opponent instead. Experimentation is encouraged because it’s so easy to perform moves that even newcomers will feel like pros within a match or two.
Even the flow of matches feels natural. The spirit meter from WCW/NWO Revenge returns, here it’s now called the Attitude meter. This serves a momentum meter and showcases how well things are going for a wrestler.
The more successful moves you inflict on an opponent, the closer to red it gets. Once it starts flashing, your Superstar can burst into an almost unstoppable but brief period where they can not only reverse moves much easier, they can also hit finishing and signature moves.
Here’s the catch, you have to hit a taunt to activate this.
If your opponent (Who by this point will probably be near blue in their momentum meter) can stop you from performing a taunt, that momentum resets back to green. You have to work back up to that point again.
I view this as a much fairer way of replicating the flow of momentum in a real wrestling match. The problem with having one health bar like Attitude is that it doesn’t give someone who’s taking a sound beating a fair way back into the match.
Speaking of matches, there are four-base types of matches available for selection. This might not seem like a lot on the surface but a second menu presented before starting up a match lets gamers tweak these matches to fine-tune the experience they want. Want a Hardcore match? Turn off DQs. Want a submission only match? Knock off the pins. Want to have a match where you can only win by first blood or KO? Good news, you can do just that.
There’s also the option to dive into Royal Rumble, actually fun if a little easy this time around as well as King of the Ring; both tag team and single variants.f
Wrestlemania 2000 shines best when you’re in a match with a friend just having a grappling back and forth. It’s not what WWF was doing on TV at the time but it makes for such a good video game experience that many simply didn’t care. It’s so easy to get sucked into how good the gameplay is that you might be tempted to overlook shortcomings in other areas. But…
With AKI’s wrestle engine comes AKI’s unique visual style. It’s on full display all throughout Wrestlemania 2000 and it very much loves it or hate it.
Wrestlers look chunky and similar in stature, almost like crash test dummies. Say what you want about Attitude’s wrestlers, they didn’t look chonky in this way. It’s not a huge problem but it’s one that ages the game upon revisit and does take some adjusting to get used to.
Luckily in other areas of the game, things have advanced beyond what was offered in WCW/NWO Revenge.
Wrestlers get full entrances here, unlike in that game. Titontrons play brief (and quite hilarious) low-quality loops of entrance videos. It’s all very rudimentary but at the end of the day, this is one of the areas the Nintendo 64 struggles in so had to expect it.
The game makes a solid stab at recreating popular characters’ taunts and movements during entrances but some Superstars lower down the card end up sharing taunts, which can be quite amusing.
With over 50 Superstars in the game, each with four different attires to choose from, it’s very likely your favorite wrestler from this period will be featured in some way. If you really want to you can edit any Superstar’s attire to be whatever you want it to, offering up huge potential for customization.
As well as this, create-a-wrestler makes a return and this time it’s more versatile than previous games.
On top of being able to change any aspect of the WWF wrestlers, you can pretty much create a huge selection of wrestlers, male and female, to suit your needs. This is also helped by the fact that a bunch of taunts, attire, and other goodies found their way in from Revenge, meaning you can create pretty impressive replicas of bigger WCW stars.
Add in the fact that you can create your Championships and defend them in any of the modes, including Royal Rumble, it’s pretty great if you’re looking to create your own federation with custom superstars.
Perhaps the biggest disappointment from Wrestlemania 2000 comes in the form of its career mode.
The Road to Disappointment
Road to Wrestlemania mode is this game’s answer to a career mode and it’s not great.
The bones are here something truly memorable but whether it be a rushed development cycle or the developers not having the right ideas to bring to the table, the mode ends up stagnating.
You can pick any WWF Superstar (including custom characters) and take them through a year of WWF programming. From Sunday Night Heats to the big four Pay Per Views, there’s a lot of highs and lows to experience.
During this you’ll be chasing all of the main Championships in the organization, looking to fight your way up the card and make a real name for yourself. All wins and losses are recorded so there’s always an incentive to improve your performance.
That is, there should be an incentive.
The problem Road to Wrestlemania mode has is that not much really happens. Occasionally you’ll blunder into a storyline but these come down to two Superstars standing in the ring while text attempts to recreate the idea of tension. They end without any real conclusion; you end up feeling a bit short-changed.
Instead, you get stuck in matches against the same opponents on loop, creating enough frustration that you might find yourself not wanting to reach the end of it all. Even if you do get there, you might not like what you find.
Perhaps most egregious to me that the career mode actively punishes gamers who overachieve. If you win the King of the Ring tournament, you get a WWF Title shot at Summerslam. Sounds great; except if you’re holding the Championship post-Royal Rumble, Vince McMahon takes it away from you and that’s it really.
No storyline to recover it. No way to recover. The only thing you get from this is a “Try again” screen at the conclusion of Wrestlemania; which to me is the biggest middle finger I’ve seen in a WWF.
Instead, you have to avoid the WWF Championship until Royal Rumble, then WIN the Royal Rumble so you get your Title match at Wrestlemania, so you can then face the games final boss – Shawn Michaels.
The mode feels half baked and lacking in the sort of creative spark that you’d want from a mode this ambitious. Say what you want about the similar modes discussed in War Zone and Attitude, at least they were pretty upfront with what they were, This mode has never been a favorite of mine and is easily the least inspired of the career modes thus far.
Ignoring the career mode, it’s important to look at Wrestlemania 2000 as a complete package.
It’s the game that had the burden of showcasing what THQ was going to be bringing to the table, I feel it smashes it on most fronts. There was enough content here to keep wrestling fans busy for a long time, it certainly kept me busy through much of 2000.
The game has a lot of positives and builds on AKI’s impressive work before this; delivering the most solid WWF video game experience up to this point.
Is it worth returning to experience though? That’s a more difficult question to answer.
Wrestlemania 2000 came at the right time to be appreciated. It heralded in a new age for WWF games and was a solid first step. But that’s what it was, a first step.
Before long WWF fans would have such a wide-open choice of games that Wrestlemania 2000 quickly disappeared from the discussion. It’s very rarely mentioned these days and overlooked because its sequel, which we’ll get to down the line, took what this game brought to the table and juiced it to the max.
I’d certainly recommend Wrestlemania 2000 as a worthy revisit for fans looking to recapture the Attitude Era. There are so many wrestlers here, even undercard guys, that don’t appear in other games during this time that it’s amazing.
From here things only get more complicated for WWF video games. It would only be mere months between this and the release of the first PlayStation exclusive WWF game; WWF Smackdown.
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